Tyne Folk


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Polly Parker Traditional

My name's Polly Parker, I come o'er from Worsley,
My mother and father work down the coal-mine.
Our family is large, we have got seven children,
So I am obliged to work down the same mine.
And as this is my fortune I know you'll feel sorry
That in such employment my days I must pass.
But I keep up my spirits, I sing and look cheerful,
Although I am but a poor collier lass.

By the greatest of dangers each day I'm surrounded
I hang in the air by a rope or a chain.
The mine may give in, I may be killed or wounded
Or perish by damp or the fire of a flame.
But what would you do if it weren't for our labours
In greatest starvation your days you would pass,
For we would provide you with life's greatest blessing
So do not despise a poor collier lass.

All the day long you may say we are buried,
Deprived of the light and the warmth of the sun.
And often at night from our beds we are hurried,
The water is in and barefoot we run.
And though we go ragged and black are our faces,
As kind and as free as the best we'll be found.
And our hearts are more wide than your lords' in high places
Although we’re poor colliers that work underground.
I'm now growing up fast, somehow or another,

There's a young collier lad runs strange in my mind.
And in spite of the talking of father and mother,
I think I should marry if he is inclined.
But should he prove surly and will not befriend me,
Another and better chance may come to pass,
And my friends here I know to him will recommend me
And I'll be no longer a poor collier lass.

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Girls and Boys in Victorian Mines

Children as young as five years old worked at jobs that were dangerous and exhausting, usually in total darkness for up to twelve hours at a time.

Children employed as a Trapper kept the airflow going in the mine to stop the build-up of dangerous gases. The trapper was often the youngest member of all the family working underground and their job was to open and close wooden trap doors allowing fresh air to flow through the mine.

Children who were employed as Putters (or Drawers) dragged or pushed truckloads full of mined coal from the face to the surface, many times during their shift, and older children operated the mine shaft pulleys.

Many accidents in shafts were caused by rope or chain breakages, and fires, explosions and roof falls killed large numbers of workers.

The 1842 Mines and Collieries Act forbade women and girls of any age to work underground, and introduced a minimum age of 10 years for boys to be employed underground

Ed Lawrence

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